Friday Five: Besides

marybethbutler writes:

Hello, all! It’s the end of January…how did that get by so fast!? Here’s a Friday Five for your amusement and our edification. If you play, please be sure to paste the URL of your blog post in the comments. Or, you can just play right here in the comments. Onward:

1. Besides cookies, muffins, and ice cream, what’s something chocolate chips are good in?
Ummm…what are they not good in? I like to put them in banana bread. And you know that whole Amish Friendship Bread thing? We we would have one of those, I’d put cherries and chocolate chips in that. Brilliant.

2. Besides official holidays and your birthday, what’s the best day of the year?
Any day that I can curl up in bed and do nothing or whatever I want and still get paid.

3. Besides toilet paper and pantry items, what’s something in your house you make sure never to run out of?
Chocolate chips (see: above)

4. Besides relatives, teachers, and coaches, who gave you the most memorable advice growing up?
G.I. Joe – knowing is half the battle.

5. Besides junk mail, subscriptions, greeting cards, and stuff you ordered online, what’s something great that came in the mail recently?
I got cards and gifts for the virtual shower I threw myself for my hysterectomy. I have great friends.

A Global Apology

The apology is (usually) a powerful thing. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears, but when it is sincere and contrite and is met with grace, it can change the world.

I have been in conversations both past and recent about what the church has done to people in the name of the gospel and it just makes me so angry. It’s abuse. Grand scale church leadership abuse has been in the news lately but the smaller, subtler, more nuanced cases are what’s on my mind today.

A few years ago I hosted a group of folks from the LGBTQ community and World Vision in my home to talk about a partnership with the WV AIDS Village experience. I’m not sure that much came of that, but what did come of that was much more beautiful and fruitful than I could’ve imagined. As we were having our conversations, some of the people in the room began to talk about the pain and rejection they’d experienced at the hands of the church and as they told their stories, I looked them in the eyes and apologized. I apologized for their pain, the feeling that they were less than the rest of us, and the message that God couldn’t love them. They were shocked. They didn’t know what to do. They wept. It’s not that I was doing anything remarkable, just doing something that should have been done a long time ago, and probably should still be happening on a regular basis.

Recently I’ve dealt with people, specifically women, who are dealing with more subtle, insidious types of abuse meted out by the church. The tough part about this is that these women are the victims of a cultural view of Christianity perpetrated by people who think they are honestly doing the right thing. As progressive as some of my friends are, they’re realizing some of the misogynistic crap that has seeped into their own psyches. Some friends are just now realizing the bill of goods they’ve been sold and are running in the opposite direction.

I’ve been processing what I’ve heard and experiencing genuine sorrow on behalf of my friends who are so hurt and damaged by what they’ve been told by the church about who they are and about about who God is, and I feel my best response can come in the form of an apology. If moderate Muslims are constantly called upon to denounce the behavior of the craziest members of their group, then I can do the same.

I’m sorry that through the use of masculine language for God we told you that you were not quite made in God’s image. Language is the key to culture, and our language says that God is all things male, so since you’re not, you must be missing something. You must be less than. You must be destined to be a second class citizen in church. You must cover your head, be silent, play piano, teach only children and clean up after pot luck meals. Using masculine language for God limits God. It puts God into our more manageable, patriarchal cultural box but it’s not who God is. God transcends gender and we all contain the stamp of God’s image in us. All of us.

I’m sorry that you were told that your body exists to serve your husband. I’m sorry you were told (either explicitly or implicitly) that you really weren’t a full member of the community unless you had a husband. I’m sorry that you were told that faith was something to be endured rather than relished. I’m sorry you weren’t told that God has such crazy, irrational love for you that God can’t contain it and it spills over in the form of beauty, and friends, and great food, and art. I’m sorry that you heard that you had to work more than you could celebrate. I’m sorry you were told that the kingdom of God is something to be achieved after you die and has nothing to do with the world now. I’m sorry you weren’t told of the gospel as a loving, courageous person who restores the outcast to full spiritual participation. I’m sorry that God’s desire to change the world through the church was sold to you as a burden, an obligation, and only for the select few who were in the right crowd.

I’m sorry. I want better for you, for the church and for the world. I will support you. I will listen to you, pray for you, sit with you and walk with you as you become who you truly are. You are beautiful, you are loved and you are valued. You matter. And I love you.

Random Friday Five!

marybethbutler writes:

Happy Friday!

In honor of Karla, the usual sponsor of this page on the second Friday, I announce it as a random Friday Five. But with a theme: NEW.

1. If you have one, what is your new resolution?

I don’t, but I have been mulling this quote as perhaps a new way to look at this year:

“Stop ‘searching for God.’ Rather, come out of hiding and let God find you.” – Leonard Sweet

2. Many folks choose a new word for a year’s beginning, as Marci’s congregation does with StarWords. Some let their word choose them, like Christine at Abbey of the Arts. Do you have a word for the year?

Balanced. My word for the year is balanced.

3. What is your new favorite exclamation/phrase at times of joy or frustration?

I usually say “Sweet Fancy Moses!”, “Son of a Nutcracker!” or “Jesus, take the wheel.”

4. Do you have a new favorite food, or an old one you are newly enjoying?

I actually made Thanksgiving food last weekend and just finished up those leftovers. This coming Sunday, my family is doing our belated New Year’s celebration with some of our favorite Mennonite dishes.

5. Finally, in general: what is your new favorite thing?

My new favorite thing(s) are the gifts I’m getting for my hysterectomy shower. It’s been a lot of fun.

We Need More Pillars

Note: I wrote this originally about our service this past Sunday, but today’s events in Paris have inspired some updates.

During the month of January, my church has various speakers come in and speak about other faiths. This week, we had Imam Khalil Sultan speak to us on Islam. He was a wonderful, humble and wise man and spoke to the universal nature of Islam and the study of all scriptures.

Islam, like all religions, has a series of spiritual practices in which followers engage in order to help them grow in their spiritual journeys. Christians have them, as well, but they’re not really emphasized as a thing as much outside of monasteries. For Muslims, there are 5 practices, or pillars, of Islam that are almost universally practiced among all sects. They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self purification and the pilgrimage. They are:

  1. Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger
  2. Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
  3. Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
  4. Sawm: fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan
  5. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able

I was talking to a friend last night about a church in Kansas City that has very specific requirements for membership. They are:

  • To worship regularly.
  • To continue to grow in your faith by participating in a small group study.
  • To serve God with your hands, by volunteering in service to the congregation and the community and world.
  • To give in proportion to your income.

This is a church of over 10,000 people. Granted, I don’t know how many of those 10,000 are actual members, but the idea that a church who has actual behavioral requirements attracts that many people is worth a conversations. If you’re not there for a few weeks someone calls you to check in. They take attendance. I can’t really imagine the logistics of taking attendance for that many people. The mind boggles. I think churches might be afraid to put those kinds of requirements on people, because they think it might drive people away, but maybe the opposite is true. Maybe we actually want something required of us.

Islam has five practices, or pillars, that involve daily, annual and lifetime behaviors that can be adapted and used as inspiration for any spiritual practice.

1. Declaring that there is one God. When we remind ourselves that God is in control, we’re also reminding ourselves that we’re not. How would your life be different if you actually said that out loud, multiple times a day.

2. Prayer 5 times a day. I wrote about being in Egypt and hearing the call to prayer something like 8 times a day and seeing people drop what they’re doing and kneel and acknowledge God’s greatness. While I’m not really into the government telling me when and how to practice my faith, I do think that if this were a practice that everyone were to adopt, our world would be a lot different.

3. Giving to the poor. An interesting difference between Christian giving and Muslim giving is that Christians give out of their income, but more well-off Muslims give out of their savings. It’s an acknowledgement that God is in control of their money and that their responsibility is to give and God takes care of the rest.

4. Fasting and self-control during Ramadan. Christians have time periods during our calendar, like Lent, when we either give up an excess or take on a practice that helps us increase our discipline and devotion. Observing these seasons help us to gauge our hunger for God and to reveal the depth of our character.

5. Pilgrimage to Mecca. Christianity has sacred locations. Personally, we also can have sacred spaces or places that we can visit to give us perspective. I’m a huge fan of international travel because I think it gives one perspective that can’t be gained by reading about a place. Lots of Christians travel to Israel to see the places where Jesus walked. There are also other trips that follow in the footsteps of various saints. Visiting a spiritually significant place is a profound way to experience God.

We are called to practice and commitment. We are called to become more like God and be God’s presence in the world.

Today in Paris there was a horrible attack by Muslim extremists who believe that their faith and their Prophet was being attacked by a satirical newspaper. Once again, terrorism in the name of faith. Christians have been guilty of it as well as Jews. We have a history (and somewhat of a present) of killing people who disagree with us. This is counter to everything that is intended by faith. If you are engaged in the practice of the above pillars or in a consistent practice of Jewish or Christian spiritual disciplines, terrorism is not the result. These events are the direct result of following one person’s interpretation of sacred texts, and not the result of seeking out God for oneself.

Friday Five: 2015, Year of the….

3dogmom writes:

I’m not really a “resolution” kind of gal. You? There are things I appreciate, however, about the idea of taking a fresh look at life when a new year dawns. I hear that it’s the Year of the Sheep for those who follow the Chinese calendar, and since I love sheep, that makes me smile. That got me thinking about what other kind of year it might be.  For instance, I’ve got more than a handful of unfinished products lying about: knitting, cross-stitch, scrapbooking… With an eye toward freeing up some space where these projects are stashed I’ve decided that it would be a win-win to make this the year of the finished project. Get my drift?

What sort of year would you like this to be for you? New vacation destination? Recipes to try? Item to check off the bucket list? Let’s have ‘em. Five of them!

Personal Note: So not a resolution girl. I’m not so great with the finishing. Plus, it’s semi-arbitrary.

1. Church involvement – So, I’ve been seeing a new church. It’s early, but things are going well. We believe the same things, but we have enough differences to make it interesting. I don’t really believe in soul mates, but it may be that this church could be “the one.” After I’ve recovered from my surgery, we’re going to see a lot more of each other, and I’m hoping things keep going well.

2. US Exploration – I usually take one international trip a year, but I feel like this year might be the year that I stay in the country and visit some spots I’ve either never seen or haven’t seen in a while. I really want to go to New Orleans and I also want to do an east coast trip from DC to Boston. I’ve discovered that seeing water is kind of important for me to keep my sanity, so there will be a few trips to California and hopefully one to Hawaii.

3. Kitchen Re-org – For my hysterectomy shower, I’ve gotten a lot of great cookbooks. I need to find a place to put them and then I need to make space for some of the new kitchen tools I’ll need to make some of these magnificent creations. I’m going to spend next weekend getting the kitchen moved around and then I’m buying another bookshelf for my living room and some of them will go there as well.

4. Back to yoga – I’ve not been to yoga in a couple of months for some personal reasons but I really need to go back. I’m going to rejoin my studio in March and get my practice on.

5. Career progress – I’ve got some irons in the fire with work stuff and I’m hoping this will take me to SF a few times. Keep your fingers crossed for me!